The Centre has announced an unilateral conditional ceasefire in Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan.
In addition to this appreciable move, which has been welcomed in the beleaguered Valley, the Centre must also announce a policy to give the militants safe passage for surrender.
In addition to "Operation All Out" against militancy, a parallel policy must be created by the Centre for "Operation Comeback".
The Army and other security forces have often urged militants to give up arms and surrender, just before launching an aggressive during encounters. Last week, chief minister Mehbooba Mufti again asked the state's security grid to start all anti-militancy operations with an offer of surrender and end these without any civilian casualty.
She urged the security top brass to start armed encounters with "surrender offer to local militants and not to resort to first fire."
The same day, General officer Commanding (GoC) of Srinagar based 15 Corps headquarters, lieutenant general AK Bhat, told reporters that local militants caught in military cordons in Kashmir will be given an offer and time to surrender.
This conciliatory practice has the sanction of the state. It can be taken a step further during the holy month of Ramadan, with the launch of "Operation Comeback".
In the last few months, many young militants came back to the loving fold of their families after appeals made by their parents or other family members. There is scope for others too to give up the gun.
But there has to be a full-fledged strategy to formulate this initiative as a policy, and channelize the militants' safe and honourable return to mainstream life.
There is hope in many quarters that the Centre can act magnanimously and allow space for greater political accommodation in Kashmir.
Magnanimous policies and initiatives are not an easy option in the face of mounting resistance by people in Kashmir. Statecraft dynamics are never easy. Yet there is space to undertake them, and they can deliver significant dividends at ground level.
Such a policy will not even imply any compromise with zero-tolerance against terror and militancy. These measures will actually ease the stresses and strains that bind UP Kashmir, and provide space for bridging fault-lines in the Valley.
There has to be a realization that some course correction and confidence-building measures are needed in Jammu and Kashmir.
The abiding strategy cannot be fighting, and losing young people at both ends - the security forces on one side, and the Kashmiri youth on the other side, who turn to militancy to give vent to their anger against the state.
Announcing the unilateral conditional ceasefire, the Centre has asked the Security Forces not to launch operations in Jammu & Kashmir during the holy month of Ramzan - the Centre specified that the security forces reserve the right to retaliate if attacked, or if their action is essential to protect the lives of innocent people.
Mehbooba Mufti thanked the government for the move. Former chief minister Omar Abdullah also tweeted:
“On the demand of all political parties (except the BJP, which had opposed it) the Centre has announced a unilateral ceasefire. Now if the militants don’t respond in kind they will stand exposed as the true enemies of the people.”
The Army top brass seems to understand that machismo cannot be the driving force of state policy. Army chief general Bipin Rawat recently admitted in an interview that there isn't a military solution to the Kashmir issue.
He said he was ready to suspend military operations in order to avoid civilian casualties. This reveals his understanding of the conflict, and the forces that drive it.